There would be no Manassas if it wasn’t for the railroad.
What started as just a place where railroads met grew into the wonderful town we know and love today.
Every year, we salute the history of the railroads and their importance to Manassas with a celebration of history and ingenuity, coupled with memorabilia, special vendors, and fun live performances.
That’s why we’re so excited for the 26th Annual Manassas Heritage Railway Festival on June 5: one of our favorite Manassas, VA events!
Let’s learn a little more about the history of the railroad in Manassas and a little more about what you can expect at the festival.
Manassas Comes to the Railroad
What we know as Manassas started as Manassas Junction: a crossroads with railroad tracks that led to Richmond, the Shenandoah Valley, and Washington, D.C. It was where the Orange and Alexandria Railroad (O&A) and the Manassas Gap Railroad (MGRR) met.
The O&A railroad stretched in many directions, also connecting to the Virginia Central and Virginia & Tennessee Railroads. Stops along the O&A included: Alexandria, Springfield, Fairfax, Culpeper, Orange, and traveled on Virginia Central tracks all the way to Charlottesville and Lynchburg.
The MGRR began construction in 1851, and by 1859, it stretched through Manassas Gap and into the Shenandoah Valley. It was originally planned to extend through Loudon County, too, but the Civil War got in the way and construction ceased.
During the Civil War, the ability to transport troops, weapons, and meat along these supply lines was invaluable. In fact, the MGRR became the first American railroad to move troops into battle.
It makes sense, then, that the First and Second Battles of Bull Run took place nearby, as Manassas Junction was so strategically important! And while Confederate forces won both battles, Manassas Junction remained mostly under Union control for the duration of the war.
But these railroads didn’t just fade after the war. Before and after, they moved goods and supplies both from and to local farmers and businesses faster and for far less money than any other transportation method. Railroads helped the area prosper, and since so many trains were passing through Manassas Junction, eventually a town formed.
And so, we celebrate the importance of the railroads to Manassas with this annual event.
Things to Find at the Manassas Heritage Railway Festival
Called “Train Day” by us locals, the Manassas Heritage Railway Festival is full of all sort of sights and sounds to experience. Throughout the day, live performances will fill the air, complementing the various whistles of visiting trains.
And you will see trains of all shapes and sizes. Commuter and freight trains stop by for this glorious event, as do (schedules permitting) more classic trains. Plus, model railroads are on display letting your imaginations explore even more tracks and vistas.
But a festival isn’t complete without things to buy and stuff to eat, and the Manassas Heritage Railway Festival is no exception. Train memorabilia vendors will be everywhere, ready to help you bring a little of the festival home with you. Because nothing is more fun that the drive home when you’re wearing your very own engineer’s cap!
At Arcadia Run, you’re always close to something amazing because history abounds in every direction. Old Town Manassas is just 14 minutes away, and Bull Run Regional Park (where those battles mentioned above took place) is less than 10 miles away. Living at Arcadia Run puts you in the middle of everything, which is why living here is so much fun.
Coming June 5, in the heart of Old Town Manassas, VA, enjoy an event like no other. For more information on the 26th Annual Manassas Heritage Railway Festival, click here.